“I usually cry at every
There was the time when the cranky 3-year-old ringbearer took off
his tuxedo pants and threw them in a toilet. Then there was the
time when the best man dropped the ring, which bounced down the
chancel steps and then rolled down the aisle. As administrative
assistant to the dean of Rockefeller Chapel and de facto wedding
coordinator, Glenda Pence has seen it all, or at least most of it.
The mothers of the brides are the most demanding part of her job,
she says: They get real nervous.
To help them stay calm, Pence works to keep everything under control.
For couples without a wedding coordinator, Pence arranges a dressing
room for the bride, lines up the bridal party in the narthex, and
sends the bride down the aisle on the correct musical cue. She keeps
a photo album of Rockefeller weddings to give couples decorating
ideas, and has found ribbon to wrap around bouquets when the bride
forgot to bring any. Pence even irons wedding dresses. The one thing
she wont do is give marital advice.
About 25 to 30 weddings take place in Rockefeller each summer
between convocation and Labor Day, she estimates. Couples affiliated
with the University have three three-hour time slots to choose from
on Saturdays, and unaffiliated couples have one slot on Sundays.
She attends all the weddings, as well as the rehearsals.
Pence ends up spending about half her weekends at the chapel because
she also helps organize the many memorial services, graduation ceremonies,
and speeches by visiting luminaries that take place at Rockefeller.
I had to find aspirin for Toni Morrison and sneak her out
the back door, Pence recalls. Last but not least, Pence serves
as Rockefellers business manager, keeping track of rental
fees, ordering supplies, and paying the choir.
Shes been doing all this for the last three and a half years,
though shes worked at the University for 24, first in alumni
relations, then at the Hospitals, then the GSB. In 1996, she helped
coordinate the Rockefeller wedding of one of her former GSB supervisors.
And just two years ago, she coordinated her own weddingto
Anthony Kucinski, the chapels former custodian.
“Everybody always gives
me such a hard time: ‘You have the nicest job.’ Yeah, I do.
It is the nicest job.”
Even in the midst of a Chicago winter, Ken Yliniemi gets to come
to the office in short sleeves. As manager of the 10,000-square-foot
greenhouse on the sixth floor of the Donnelley Biological Sciences
Learning Center, he enjoys year-round sunshine through the glass
The greenhouses nine separate rooms contain plants used
in about 24 different experiments, mostly by researchers in ecology
& evolution and molecular genetics & cell biology. Other
greenhouse plants are used for teaching purposes. Its
not a display, he says, pointing out the locked doors. Its
Because different plants and projects have different needs, a
computerized system in the fifth-floor offices monitors the rooms
conditions and adjusts lights, fans, vents, and other controls accordingly.
I dont talk to the plants, Yliniemi says with
a smile. We have CO2 injectors for each room, so we can do
His career is rooted in his days growing up on a Minnesota farm.
Yliniemi studied agriculture, specializing in horticulture, as an
undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, then earned a masters
in plant biology. He managed the University of Minnesotas
greenhouse until coming to the U of C in January 1998.
He begins his mornings by making the rounds of the rooms, observing
an order of entry designed to avoid contaminating the experiments.
He keeps a careful eye out for equipment problems: if the greenhouse
gets too warm, research could be ruined. Then hell discuss
the days projects, from preparing soil for planting to repotting
plants that need to flower, with his two assistants. They also share
watering duties. Between the three of them, someone works an eight-hour
shift every day of the year. Yliniemi is on 24-hour call; the computer
system has an alarm that can reach him at home.
But his life isnt all plants; he likes the people, too.
I work closely with the researchers. Their projects become
your projects, he says. When it succeeds, were
just thrilled with it. My staff and I always like to pat ourselves
on the back.
“If it’s made out of wood—we
work on it.”
The gothic stone exteriors
of the Universitys buildings have withstood more than 100
years of Chicago weather. The gothic wood interiors of those buildings
need to withstand more insidious threats, like energetic undergrads
leaping to touch the top of a door frame. Thats one way to
loosen dentil work, the small wooden blocks at the top of the trim
in the Ida Noyes Cloister Club. The trim gets broken pretty
constantly, says carpenter David Penrose. They save
up a bunch of it and then we do it for all the different rooms.
Penrose, whos been with the carpentry shop of the Universitys
facilities services department for more than 19 years, taught himself
how to carve, as well as how to do more standard carpentry. A Navy
man who studied art at college, hes always been handy,
even building his Indiana home himself.
Having done work on each of Ida Noyess floors, Penrose cites
it as his favorite campus building with respect to woodwork. In
addition to fixing the trim, hes repaired the flooring, made
two doors, carved an elaborate new backplate for the large wooden
chair in the visitors lounge, and recreated the fingers of
a troll on the second-floor landing.
The fingers were broken off, but the hands werent in
the same position as the troll on the opposite side, he explains.
With no pictures of the intact troll from which to copy the original
fingers, a friend took pictures of Penroses folded hands for
a model. Penrose then took the troll off the wall and into the shop,
where he joined a block of oak to it and shaped the fingers using
a hand-held high-speed grinder and chisels.
More often than intricate woodworking, his days include fixing
doors and handrails, making cabinets, and boarding up broken windows.
He likes the variety best of all. Youre not bored by
hammering nails into walls, Penrose says. In this era of disposable
goods and assembly-line production, theres also the challenge
of living up to the original craftsmanship. We expect our
work to last another 100 years, he says. Thats
what we try for, anyway.
“I really love to play the
broker. Clients come with the need, and my ability to make
the fit for them is very rewarding.”
Want to see Sammy Sosa from along the first baseline? Have you
been hoping for the chance to be in the audience during a Jerry
Springer slugfest? If youre affiliated with the GSB, Catherine
Kirk can help you out. The director of the business schools
concierge service, Information Plus, Kirk handles these requests
and all kinds of others for GSB students, faculty, staff, alumni,
and corporate recruiters.
Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer are difficult requests,
says Kirk. Jerry Springer, for some reason, is popular. We
dont understand why. Sports events, on the other hand,
arent difficult to get tickets to, but good seats are going
to cost. Not that Kirk and her assistant will chargeInformation
Plus is a free servicebut ticket agents ask a hefty price.
Besides the usual ticket and reservation requests, Kirk has gone
so far as to have gloves specially tailored for a client with a
misshapen hand and to track down full Highland dress for a student
to wear to a formal.
She started as a concierge ten years ago at the Ambassador West
Hotel on Chicagos Gold Coast, switched to a corporate concierge
company, then ran her own concierge business for three years. In
1994, Kirk began working in the social sciences computing center
and taking classes toward an M.B.A. at the GSB. Deputy dean Mark
Zmijewski thought she might be the person to run a proposed centralized
reception area. Kirk came on board in late 1996 and opened Information
Plus in November 1997. Because its the first academic concierge
service in the country, notes Kirk, One of the greatest challenges
is legitimizing this service with our community.
The five-day-a-week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. service now receives about
200 requests per quarter, she estimates, mostly via phone, e-mail,
or drop-in. The fall and winter are dominated by corporate recruiters
who need transportation to and from the campus, while spring brings
a flood of graduates seeking hotel-room blocks for relatives and
help organizing cruises on the lake.
Sometimes the job calls for exercising a little discrimination.
We wont do anything illegal, unethical, or unkind,
Kirk says. Note: she will not find you an escort.
“For injured athletes, a
lot of times the whole world is over. As they heal, that comes
Sometimes you gotta be cruel
to be kind. Which is why Mark Timmons, assistant trainer in the
physical education and athletics department, sends electrical currents
through some students knees and watches others sweat it out
on stationary bicycles: theyll be stronger for it in the end.
Hes a bit easier on infielder Nick Nimerala, whos getting
a therapeutic ultrasound to deep-heat his strained tendon (above).
Timmons is part of a staff of four employees, two full-time and
two part-time, who look after the physical health of Chicagos
varsity athletes and coaches. That can mean anything from treating
a blister inflicted by new shoes to helping someone rehabilitate
after knee surgery. Timmons estimates that 90 percent of campus
athletes need the field house training room at some point during
their careers, usually for minor problems such as muscle strains
and mild ligament tears.
Timmonss job takes him outside the training room, too, traveling
to competitions to take care of any on-the-spot injuries and leaving
him with barely a day off from mid-August to mid-December. He works
mostly with the baseball, basketball, and football teams, which
provide occasional scary moments. We had a running back who
was hit really hard and knocked unconscious, he remembers.
By the time I got to him, he was starting to come to. Its
always nice to get to them and just hear I sprained my ankle.
Some of the work, notes Timmons, is trying to prevent injuries:
We work with the coaches in developing conditioning programs
and going through a physical-exam process before the start of the
season to identify athletes at risk.
The trainer received his own training through an apprenticeship
program at Eastern Michigan University, his alma mater. To obtain
certification from the National Athletic Trainers Association,
he also had to pass an exam that tests theory and skills. Timmons
worked at Michigan high schools and at St. Ambrose University before
joining the U of C 11 years ago. He says the atmosphere here has
changed since then. The way our athletes can balance academics
and athletics has always been amazing, Timmons explains. Now
there are more and more students and faculty at games. That means
a lot to our athletes.
“We are cautiously optimistic
that we’ll be Year 2000 compliant.”
Eugene Humphrey has big plans for New Years Eve and New Years
Day: hanging out at the University of Chicago Hospitals, hoping
that the Y2K bug doesnt bite. As the Hospitals Y2K project
manager, he thinks the Hospitals will be just fineits
everybody else that worries him. One of our main concerns
is the possibility of getting an influx of patients from other area
hospitals that may not be as far along as we are, he explains.
Internally, well be fine. Its the external things
that kind of keep you up at night.
Although Y2K planning at the Hospitals began in 1996, Humphreyan
evening and weekend administrator at the Hospitals since January
1997wasnt tapped for the team until June 1998. Since
then, he and project director Ashley Shrader have worked with the
Y2K task force and steering committee to map out plans for reaching
total compliancy and to see those plans through.
The team focused on four disciplines, or areas of concern: information
services and systems, facility operations, biomedical devices, and
business partners. That meant about 16,000 items needed to be checked
out. A major part of Humphreys job has been to query 2,500
business partnerscompanies that supply the Hospitals with
equipment and servicesas to their Y2K compliancy and that
of their products. The paper documentation fills five large file
As of June 18, the Hospitals were 80 percent Y2K compliant. The
most critical devices, such as defibrillators, internal pacemakers,
and operating-room equipment, should be taken care of by the end
of September, assures Humphrey. Less crucial items like thermometers
and beds take a lower priority. For the most part, equipment
is really not affected, he says. Were probably
remediating [repairing or replacing] less than 10 percent of the
Current efforts are also concentrated on contingency planning,
making sure each department is well-staffed and -stocked as the
digits change from 1999 to 2000. Developing a blueprint for the
unknown has been exciting, says Humphrey. Of course, his own future
is also uncertain, as the new year will render his job obsolete.
But first hes got to get past the next big date: February
“I feel like I’m doing more
than just retail. We’re educating the public about a field
I dearly love.”
The Oriental Institute Museum is a living monument to antiquity,
including the ancient art of buying and selling. As manager of the
museum shop, the Suq (Arabic for market), Denise Browning
purchases goods from a huge conglomeration of contacts
that includes two West African bead traders whose family has been
in the business for 1,000 years. Thats my lovebeads,
says Browning, a Syro-Palestinian archaeologist and onetime OI grad
student. Ive always felt that beads were an important
part of archaeology that have been overlooked.
Some of the beads and jewelry she buys for the store are as much
as 300 years old. From the loose beads, Browning and two members
of her staff of volunteers and students make about 10 percent of
the jewelry that the Suq offers. Whether old or new, the pieces
must be of styles and materials that would have been used in the
ancient Near East. We dont carry faceted stones because
there were no cut stones, Browning explains. Many of the necklaces
arent symmetrical, which, she notes, is more of a Western
tradition. Modern trends affect sales, though: as chokers have become
more popular in recent years, the Suqs shorter necklaces have
Besides jewelry, the store sells books, slides, rugs, bowls, sculpture,
and trinkets. With the ongoing renovation of the museum, the Suq
is redoing its guidebook and adding new slides. Browning also plans
to have some of the newly displayed items reproduced for the store.
All proceeds go toward OI projects, particularly the research archives.
The Suq has undergone its own renovation this year, the first
since Browning started working weekends at the shop as a student
nearly 20 years ago. Besides receiving new electrical wiring and
a fresh coat of paint, the Suq had its ceiling raised and space
reconfigured. We designed it ourselves, says Browning.
Thats why this job is interestingwe get to do
something different every year.
What remains constant is a clientele that includes Egyptophiles
and tourists from around the globe. The store has books on hieroglyphs
for 6-year-olds and academics, she notes. The most challenging
is helping 100 schoolchildren find what they need in 15 minutes
before the bus leaves
that they can afford and that will stimulate
“In fall, people still think
they have a lot of money and time, so they come early and
When ER fans watch the University
of Chicago Hospitals helicopter deliver a patient to the fictional
County General Memorial Hospital, theyre probably thinking
about Anthony Edwards, not Mose Freeman. But if it werent
for Freeman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago Aeromedical
Network, the Dauphin 2 aircraft, known as Aeromed 1, would never
make it off the ground.
One of six UCAN communications specialists, Freeman sits at the
networks nerve center in the basement of the U
of C Childrens Hospital, taking calls from physicians, nurses,
police officers, fire fighters, or paramedics asking for emergency
flights or transports between hospitals. As he takes the medical
and landing zone information, a color-coded map on the wall helps
Freeman find the nearest appropriate hospital, be it one with an
adult or pediatrics trauma center or one with a burn unit. UCANs
computer system contains information on all hospitals within the
250-mile radius that the helicopter services, so Freeman knows whom
to call at the receiving hospital, where the helipad is, and what
the flight time should be.
After dispatching the flight crewa pilot, doctor, and nursehe
keeps in touch with them at all times via a radio system and walkie-talkies.
Its Freemans job to coordinate the efforts of the flight
team, the caller, and the receiving hospital. Were the
hub, he says. This is where it all begins. They ring
us up, and we go into action.
An emergency medical technician who also works for the Dolton,
IL, fire department, Freeman maintains his EMT status in part by
spending time in the air. He received his communications training
during his six years with the Marine Corps, before he started working
at the Hospitals 19 years ago. He joined UCAN in 1983 when it started,
helping to set up the communications center.
You never know what youre going to get when the phone
rings, says Freeman. The adrenaline starts flowing when
youve got an accident scene and youre sending the helicopter
out to give them the help they need.
“I really like working with
one-of-a-kind things. I like helping to make discoveries.”
Most people in the organismal biology & anatomy department
have taken a hefty number of science classes. Carol Abraczinskas
learned what she knows by drawing it. A scientific illustrator,
she graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in
1990 and began working at the Oriental Institute through a co-op
program in 1989. When the professor she worked with left, paleontologist
Paul Sereno was looking for an illustrator, so she transferred to
his lab. Her drawings of dinosaurs and ancient birds have appeared
in scientific journals, national magazines, and museum exhibits.
Abraczinskas has also passed on some of her skills to several groups
of BSD graduate students, teaching a class in scientific illustration
every 18 months or so.
Working from specimens, casts of specimens, and photographs, Abraczinskas
meticulously draws the bones with a technical pencil, occasionally
opting for pen and ink. With tiny dinosaurs, she uses a camera lucida
and microscope that project an enlarged image of the specimen onto
her paper so she can trace the outline. For incomplete specimens,
Abraczinskas and Sereno discuss how best to fill in the blanks.
Working on short- and long-term projects simultaneously, it might
take Abraczinskas a month to sketch and revise a detailed illustration,
and as much as two and a half years for a series of drawings. She
doesnt use a computer to draw the details, but she does use
one when she needs a line drawing with labels.
One of her favorite specimens is Eoraptor, a 228 million-year-old,
3-foot-long dinosaur discovered by Serenos team in Argentina
in 1991. We worked with this one specimen for such a long
time, Abraczinskas recalls. I feel like the specimen
is my friend. Her illustration of it hangs above the door
inside her office, and a cast of its skull, painted to look like
the original, sits on her bookshelf at home. Another favorite is
Suchomimus, discovered in 1997 in Niger and announced in 1998. While
drawing its foot-long thumb claw, she noticed grooves that Sereno
concluded may have been for blood vessels. When you draw something,
she says, you spend so much time with it that you make a lot